Paul S. Berman

Law school deans seem incredibly powerful. They seem like they have the power to reshape their law schools in their own ways. They seem like they’re in charge.

In reality, law deans spend much more time begging than ordering. They’re asking their university presidents to keep more of the revenue their schools generate. They’re trying to cajole tenured faculty who can’t be fired. They’re sniveling on bended knee to rich and powerful alumni. And if their law school drops in the U.S. News law school rankings, they’re likely to be discarded and replaced by somebody with a “new vision” for the law school.

I’m not crying for law school deans. They make an obscene amount of money, yet they’re not directly accountable to the students who fund their salary.

But they have a tough job. And when they don’t have the support of the faculty, they can wake up to find a big knife sticking in their back — a knife labeled “faculty lounge.”

This one law dean found that out the hard way, though he continues to deny that his law faculty essentially led a successful coup d’état….

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I must confess to having a tin ear when it comes to issues of race. My view on racial issues is like my view on sports: What’s the big deal? Why does everyone care so much?

Perhaps it’s because I’m Asian; we tend to be bystanders as African-Americans and whites yell at each other. Perhaps it’s because I’m Filipino-American; we are total mutts a very hybrid people. Not to go all Fauxcahontas on you, but according to my (not genealogically verified) family lore, I have Malay, Chinese, Spanish, British, and Czech ancestry.

And thanks to the rise of intermarriage in the United States, my kind of ethnic hybridity is the wave of the future. In fifty or 100 or 150 years, more people will have my blasé attitude about race because “race” as a concept will be so much less salient. To tweak the famous words of Chief Justice John Roberts, “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to intermarry so much so that nobody knows what race anybody else is.”

In the meantime, though, there’s plenty of racial tension to go around. Today we bring you allegations of racism at a law school, countered by allegations of playing the race card (i.e., crying racism in bad faith or without sufficient proof).

Let’s take a look at the latest heated controversy, taking place at a top law school….

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We’ve previously covered the departure of Paul Schiff Berman as dean of George Washington University Law School. There was a lot of intrigue regarding Dean Berman’s departure.

Now it appears that the decision on Dean Berman’s replacement is also steeped in controversy. Today, GW Law named Professor Gregory Maggs as its interim dean. In so doing, the school passed over their Senior Associate Dean, Christopher Bracey. Instead of promoting Bracey into the interim dean position, he’ll stay on at GW, under Maggs.

This seems like a good time to point out that Maggs is white and Bracey is black.

And so let’s play our game, because a member of the GW Law Faculty, who is also black, had a real problem with the decision to pass over Bracey. She called it “not the law school’s finest hour” in a message to the entire faculty. And then she subtly told another faculty member to go jump in a lake.

Fun times….

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As we reported yesterday, Dean Paul Schiff Berman is leaving the deanship at the George Washington University Law School to assume a university-wide position as GW’s “Vice Provost for Online Education and Academic Innovation.” He’s switching jobs effective January 16, 2013.

Since the news of Dean Berman’s resignation became public, we’ve heard all sorts of rumors about why he’s departing as dean of GW Law. What are the rumors — and is there any truth to them?

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Hello, readers from George Washington University. You guys are having a bit of a day, aren’t you?

If you haven’t been following along with non-legal news, George Washington University was bathed in scandal this weekend. In the past couple of days, we’ve learned that the GW college had been inflating the grades of its incoming class when they reported statistics to U.S. News. GW had been saying that 78% of its 2011 incoming class ranked in the top 10% of their high school classes. Instead, the correct number is 58%.

Whoops.

While the college wipes the egg off of its face over that mess, the GW Law School will be reshuffling the deck chairs. Law school dean Paul Schiff Berman, who basically just got there, is leaving to head a different department in the university. Wait until you see what it is….

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Life moves pretty fast in the digital age. Yesterday, we reported on the horrendous decision by Dean Paul Schiff Berman of George Washington University Law School to cut the stipend of GW Law’s “Pathways to Practice” program. The program is for unemployed graduates who get a stipend from the school to take a fellowship while they continue to look for more remunerative work.

When George Washington Law students signed up for the program a month ago — just in time to be counted as “employed upon graduation” — they were told that the stipend would be $15 per hour for a 35-hour work week. But Dean Berman decided that GW Law grads needed more of an incentive to find paying work, and yesterday he announced a plan to cut the stipend by a third, to $10 per hour.

Last night, after an outcry from students (and some bad press), Dean Berman changed his mind and decided to restore funding to the $15 per hour level.

Good times! There’s nothing quite like having to fight and beg for a one-year, $15-an-hour job after paying $45,750 per year in tuition.

In his letter reversing his decision, Berman has recast the reasons for wanting to cut the funding in the first place. I hope the class of 2013 is paying attention, because in the high likelihood that funding is cut next year, this is the justification you should expect to see….

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The conceit of every Republican administration of my lifetime has been that poor people wouldn’t be so poor if they just “worked harder.” The dismantling of the welfare state was fueled by the notion that certain people needed more incentive to find work — as if being on public assistance somehow needs to be more hardscrabble and humiliating in order to really help people.

Now, it seems the same kind of flawed and sheltered logic will be coming to a law school near you. But the kicker is that it’s the students employed by the school, in programs designed to help the school game the U.S. News rankings and fleece the next generation of paying 1Ls, who are being told that they need more of an incentive to find employment.

We’ve got a school scolding students for being too comfortable in the post-graduate employment program the school itself designed to avoid telling the truth to U.S. News….

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While we wait for the Supreme Court to rule on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) — by the way, live audio or video coverage would be nice — let’s pick up where we left off yesterday, with coverage of the latest Supreme Court clerk hiring.

We’ll start with some analysis of the October Term 2012 law clerks, now that we know who they are, and then show you the updated law clerk lists for OT 2012 and OT 2013….

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Being a justice of the United States Supreme Court is a pretty great gig. You get to attend glamorous events like Tuesday night’s State of the Union address. You get to wear a snazzy black robe on said occasions.

Sure, there’s some work involved. SCOTUS opinions can be loooong! But at least the justices have their trusty Supreme Court clerks, three dozen or so of the nation’s brightest young legal minds, to help get everything done.

Thanks to everyone who responded to our recent request for tips about law clerk hiring activity at SCOTUS. Let’s take a look at what we’ve learned, shall we?

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